Chances are pretty good you have heard someone talk about “hard water” and “soft water” before. The question is: how much do you really know about the two? What is the difference between hard water and soft water? More importantly, what kind of water do you currently have in your home?
Hard water is water that contains a lot of dissolved minerals. Soft water is water that has been treated so the only thing it contains is sodium. Soft water is not most people’s first choice for drinking water because it has a very salty taste. Taking this information into account it makes it a little hard to wrap your mind around the idea that people do install water softeners to get clean water that they can drink.
When water is hard it can be softened using lime. This removes the minerals from the water. When everything is said and done the only thing left in the water is the complex sodium salts.
The reason why people use a softener to create softer water is really for everything but turning it into drinking water. Soft water is less damaging to your plumbing system which means it is going to last for longer. Soft water is also more effective with cleaning agents. Most people are surprised to learn this, but water that is hard can make certain soaps ineffective which makes cleaning pointless. What happens is the magnesium or calcium in the water mixes with the agents in the soap and creates an organic acid that does not let you clean anything.
Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to determine whether or not the water coming out of your plumbing is hard. Using dish soap is one of the easiest ways to test the water. Use an empty bottle and fill it half way up with water. Add ten drops of your dish soap to the bottle. Put the cap on the bottle and shake the bottle for roughly 30 seconds. A soapy and foamy solution should quickly form if your water is soft. If it does not seem like the soap is having much of a reaction with the water, then you have hard water. Unfortunately, this test means that all of the cleaning you have been doing with that water and that soap has not been very effective either.